Pierre-Luc Lecours

Pierre-Luc Lecours – Paysages imaginaires

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Another release on the Mikroclimat label that it’s taken me far too long to spend time with is Paysages imaginaires by Montréal-based composer Pierre-Luc Lecours. As the title – ‘imaginary landscapes’ – implies, the five tracks on this half-hour album create and inhabit artificial environments conjured up through the combination of real-world sounds with synthesizers, electric guitar and bass clarinet (the latter played by Charlotte Layec).

Some of these landscapes allow for a meditative engagement, in part due to a greater sense of passivity in their construction. Final track ‘Suspension’ is the best example of this, the sound of the clarinet a central (even catalytic) presence amidst gently swelling agglomerations of pitch and noise. Over time these swells seem akin to slow accents with extended resonances, embellished later with an assortment of clarinet trills. But for all its movement and detail, there’s a stillness at the heart of this piece, its notes hanging uncannily in the reverberant air. ‘Amor Fati’ is similar, comprising whoozy, vaporous chords and faint plucked string drifting through space. The environment is shaken by a number of restrained blows from its depths, triggering the appearance of numerous tolling bells; but again, the tone remains relatively calm and there’s the impression that this activity is happening at some distance – without actively seeking our interest – and we’re hearing it from afar.

More ambitious but still conveying a similar kind of passivity is ‘Passages’, where Lecours introduces sounds indicative of train travel. Around these are a collection of diaphanous floating notes and chords, as well as a low drone that only slowly emerges, while the clarinet is concerned with minimalistic gestures, primarily repeated notes and arpeggios. This palette of sounds becomes the basis for a music that continually tilts between light and shadow, speed and stasis, vagueness and clarity, intimacy and distance. Placid noodlings are answered by deep throbs; high clarinet squalls (sometimes not unlike animal calls) have their energy quickly dissipated in the atmosphere; clattering, hard-edged momentum is countered by smooth melodic shapes. The result is a curious equilibrium in which, to a greater extent than in ‘Amor Fati’ and ‘Suspension’, every action is to some degree a counterpoint to the preceding one, the total of all these actions being a kind of zero sum. Again, ‘Passages’ invites a meditative form of engagement yet its music happily fits few if any of the clichés and conventions associated with that kind of listening. Read more

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